I really don't know where to start, so I'll just say this: Hawaii is a culinary wonderland, and I hope you get to go there.
I have lots of dewy observations about Hawaiian cuisine that have probably been made by countless others before me (why, it's East meets West!) so I'll spare you those. If you want the real deal, check out Rachel Laudan's The Food of Paradise. If you just want to know what I ate during my trip there last week, read on. I'll try not to use the words "lush," "exotic," and "better" too often.
I'll start by introducing you to the first Hawaiian food that I was introduced to. Reader, meet poke. Looks amazing, doesn't it?
It is! Poke, pronounced poh-kay, is a raw fish dish that consists of super-fresh seafood and ample seasoning. It's tempting to compare it to ceviche or sashimi, but poke is its own beast, it is absolutely scrumptious, and I miss it dearly. And I can't say that about too many beasts.
Depending on the variety, poke will also contain slivers of raw onion, seaweed, or even kimchi. Though poke is a traditional dish, like most Hawaiian foods its modern incarnation folds in elements that originated with other cultures. But some of my favorite "flavors" included Polynesian ingredients like the kukui nuts you see sprinkled on the ahi poke above.
Elise's favorite was, hands down, the smoked marlin, which in texture was close to jerky. Smoked marlin poke was sweet, salty, spicy, and of course smokey and marliny. It went very well with the baby soft white rice that we always ate with our poke, which usually came from the Tamura's in Honolulu. Not necessarily what you'd expect from a liquor store, but it was probably the best thing you could buy there.
With its high protein content, cool temperature and oceanic flavors, poke is the perfect post-beach food. I ate some after surfing, which I also tried for the first time. Hard to say which I liked better.